It’s doubtful filmmaker Ted Schillinger, in chronicling the crusade of pro-death-penalty “retributionalist” Robert Blecker, deliberately intended to give him enough rope to hang himself. But by the end of “Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead,” the New York law professor’s obsessive relationship to death-row inmate Daryl Holton, self-confessed slayer of his own four children, assumes enough bizarre twists to lay bare the myriad contradictions and prejudices underlying Blecker’s Gilbert & Sullivan-ish campaign to make the punishment fit the crime. Opening Feb. 27 at Gotham’s Cinema Village, this psychological case study may prove too creepy and tangential to spark advocacy interest.
Before classrooms, legislatures and the camera, Blecker passionately argues that capital punishment be deemed a moral necessity — the painfulness of the execution calibrated to match the victim’s suffering — and reserved for “the worst of the worst,” that designation emotionally determined via some imagined standard of disgust. Just how subjective this criterion is becomes immediately apparent in Blecker’s weird fascination with Holton, as the killer’s intelligence and wry humor throw Blecker’s whole moral compass out of whack, while Holton’s refusal to act remorseful denies Blecker closure.